For many of us, walking seems like such a natural movement that you may not even consider it as a true exercise. You have been doing it since childhood and we have been conditioned to believe that only high-intensity exercise is beneficial. According to science and the medical research community, walking may actually be the wonder drug you have been searching for.
Walking is an accessible exercise that lends itself to a variety of fitness, health, and economic levels. You don’t have to pay for gym membership or buy expensive equipment. You can start walking right away from a fully sedentary lifestyle and you can increase intensity to meet your fitness level as it improves. Unless you have a condition that prevents you from walking at all, this form of exercise is likely available to you.
On top of the normal benefits of regular exercise like improvement in heart health, increased muscle strength, and stronger bone density, walking has some surprising benefits you may not have considered. According to Harvard Health, the benefits of walking go beyond fitness and heart health.
5 Unexpected Benefits of Walking
1. Reduction in joint pain.
It may seem counter-intuitive since movement can sometimes be painful for joint sufferers, but in the long run walking has been shown to help with joint pain. Walking helps to lubricate vulnerable joints like the knees and hips and works to strengthen the muscles that support those joints. This helps reduce arthritis-related pain and improve mobility.
Even better, research has shown that walking 5 to 6 miles a week can actually prevent arthritis from forming in the first place. For older adults with lower body mobility and pain issues, as little as 10 minutes of walking each day can help them maintain physical independence and overall body health. Walking is one of the most low-impact exercises so you don’t have to worry about it increasing pain from pounding or stress on the joints.
Additionally, walking helps the body produce its own natural pain relief in the form of endorphins. These feel-good chemicals are released when the body exercises and can provide immediate and long-term pain relief and mood stability. If that fails, you can add a compression support like our Knee Brace, Velcro Knee Brace, or a pair of our Compression Socks to help add to the many benefits of keeping active!
2. Managing weight and combating obesity.
Modern science has identified obesity causing genes. In studies done by Harvard, 32 obesity-causing genes were studied in over 12,000 participants. Study participants that walked at least an hour a day, had those obesity-causing genes cut in half.
In addition to combating obesity-causing genes, walking as an exercise has been proven beneficial as a weight-loss tool. Depending on your body size, walking for an hour burns about 300 calories. Burning calories through exercise is a key component to reaching calorie deficit which is required to lose weight. In conjunction with a sensible diet plan, walking is an easy and accessible way to reach that calorie deficit and lose weight properly.
Excess weight and obesity are contributing factors to joint pain. Many people find that when they are able to lose body fat, the reduced pressure on joints helps with pain. Walking provides a low intensity starting point for the obese or out-of-shape to get started with exercise and weight loss. Support can be critical for those with knee pain, which is a common ailment from excess weight; we recommend adding a Knee Brace or a Velcro Knee Brace if you suffer from acute knee pain.
3. Reduction in sugar cravings.
If you have a sweet tooth, you know just how challenging it can be to tame those sugar cravings and eat a more healthy diet. Diets high in sugar have been linked to obesity, inflammation, and diabetes.
Walking has been shown to actually reduce sugar cravings in a section of research. One study from the University of Innsbruck in Austria, had participants walk on a treadmill for 15 minutes after fasting for three days. After the 15 minutes on the treadmill, study participants were asked to unwrap and hold a piece of candy in their hand while answering questions about cravings and stress. A control group was just asked to passive sit for 15 minutes prior to holding the candy and answering the survey questions. Those who had just performed 15 minutes of walking saw a significant reduction in their sugar craving, even while having the temptation right in their hand.
While this is difficult to extrapolate to cravings throughout the day or to a much larger population, the study does show promise. More than that, walking has been shown to boost mood which could have positive benefits in appetite control. The idea being that you are less likely to binge on comforting, unhealthy food when you are in a good mood.
4. Lower risk of breast cancer.
Exercise has long been known to contribute to lower risks of cancer by improving overall health. More specific studies have shown that walking specifically has been linked to a reduced risk of breast cancer in women.
A journal-published study of post-menopausal women suggests that walking for at least seven hours a week can help prevent breast cancer. In the over 70 thousand participants, those that vigorously exercised every day had a 25% lower risk of breast cancer. Those that walked, not necessarily exercised vigorously, had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer.
This study suggests that even just a lower-impact, gentler exercise like walking everyday can significantly reduce risk of breast cancer. Science suggests that these findings could be applied to other cancers and aging-related disease.
5. Improved Immune System Function.
A healthy immune system is a key component in enjoying a healthy and disease-free life. Without a properly functioning immune system, you are vulnerable to infections. Conversely, when your immune system over-functions you can experience inflammatory responses and autoimmune disorders.
Regular walking can help boost immune function and curb risk of immune-related conditions. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, walking could help you ward off the common cold and flu. One study showed that participants that exercised for 45-minutes at least four times a week took 25% to 50% less time off of work due to illness. In another study, participants that exercised for 20 minutes, five times a week called in sick 43% less than non-exercising counterparts.
Add in that walking boosts circulation and heart health, and you could see significant improvements in your overall immune function.